Saturday, December 31, 2011

Religious sensitivities??

Much pondering on 'the new' atheism this month.

Led a morning conference for 200 year 11s on 'environment'. (Blimey!) Struck by how much adverse reaction there was to a section on why faith in God might lead one to care for the planet, a minor part of the morning: we had been instructed to cover RE. The kids totally kicked off and couldn't focus on anything else from then on. "We weren't brought up that way, miss". "We don't need God, miss." One was so rude he got secluded. It was really bizarre.


Some good friends of mine then shared the above link on Facebook, a Tim Minchin song edited out of the final cut of the Jonathan Ross show. It mocks Jesus, a bit. It isn't very funny and it isn't half as offensive as most of Tim's Christ-bashing, so who knows why it was cut. Perhaps because it wasn't particularly entertaining? If the editing was done to avoid upsetting Christians, I feel rather patronised. Censorship that panders to religious sensitivities is almost always a mistake.

Long chat with one of my brothers at Christmas. He is an actor and planning some stand up comedy that mocks aggressive atheism. He dislikes Tim Minchin (who I often find hilarious, though far more hit-and-miss when focusing on religion) and thinks his audiences visibly change when he starts to criticise Christianity: they cheer and jeer, rather than laugh. As if at a political rally of some sort. 

Is it true that dismantling religion is a counter-cultural act, as some atheists claim? It may well be, globally, but I don't think so in Britain. Our country has left Christendom behind, in all but a few obsolescent ways. (I wish parliament and the queen would detach themselves from the C of E. Why bishops should have a seat in the house of lords I do not know.) It is far trendier to be atheist than to be Christian.

Criticism is fine and I wish more people would quiz me on what I believe. Why are we all so scared of talking to each other? But I don't think anything is achieved by mocking Christians in an uninformed, generalistic way. Those who do it often act as if their words are in some way brave and uttered for the good of the masses. I don't hold with the view that those who share my faith are 'persecuted' in Britain (many would say so - I think that is daft) but I do think that we have entered a period where people enjoy knocking Christianity just because it it acceptable, rather than for any higher purpose.

Why can't someone as gifted as Tim Minchin let it go and get back to being funny? Why can't a brilliant scientist like Richard Dawkins get back to educating people about the wonders of the world? Or, if they are doing this out of a sense of justice, maybe they should go and knock Christianity over in Uganda. Or Islam over in Afghanistan. If they really want to carry on as they are, maybe they could read the bible properly or spend a year attending an ordinary church. Just so they know a tiny bit about their subject, you know?

It's old now, and more respectful, but I still think mocking Christianity is done much better by Eddie Izzard, who has clearly done his research. One example, here.